If you’re of the opinion that art only matters when it’s high-brow and tagged with at least a six digit number, then Mark Mulroney’s rather twisted universe might not be the one you fly to when you’re spacing out next time. If you agree though, that art indeed can - or maybe even should - be heavily influenced by vintage playmates, Charles M. Schulz, cheap jokes, twerking, violence, humorous collages and bodily fluids, and can still present an elaborate (and higher) state of consciousness, then you will certainly embrace the skilled daringness of this Californian artist. Just recently, you might have seen his work at the Mixed Greens gallery whilst in NYC, where he proved once again that there’s hardly any medium he wouldn’t feel comfortable with via his solo show “Yellow Bikini“, a fantastic smorgasbord that featured sketchbook doodles, transformed album covers, collages, drippy sculptures, impressive murals and paintings. Still not convinced? Then let Mr. Mulroney explain it like this. “The Ramones were formed in 1974. The best selling album of 1974 was Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road“. The album featured such hits as “Candle in the Wind“ and “Jamaica Jerk Off“. The landscape of popular music in 1974 offered The Ramones no reason to believe that their music would ever find an audience yet they moved forward anyway.“ Lodown invited Mark to an intercontinental chitchat in mid May.
- Mark, you seem to feel at home working with so many different media... is there one you actually prefer over the other? Or a particular one that you were dying to try out but realized that it’s going nowhere?
I wish there was one medium that would work for everything I ever wanted to make but I don’t think such a thing exists... so I use whatever medium is best suited for the project. Sometimes that is ink. Other times perhaps the work calls for some wood carving or spray paint. I just use whatever will help me to execute an idea. When something I am working on fails it is not the fault of the medium but the fault of the person employing that medium. I can’t blame the pencil when I make a crappy drawing.
- I was wondering how you prepare for certain series... do you clearly know in advance how to execute particular ideas or is that something which evolves in the process?
It can work either way. The last series of paintings that I made evolved over time. I would get an idea to put a shape or an object on the canvas, and then just let it go from there. The painting titled “MEMORIAL” was supposed to be a simple painting of an African sculpture and a Roman bust, but those two objects just sat next to one another in a lifeless composition... so I kept working until I felt that the objects were all talking to one another.
- I love it that you’re seemingly not too interested in political correctness or the politics of wannabe fine art. Where does this healthy dose of disrespect actually root from?
I am never trying to be offensive or rebellious in any way. I am not a big fan of attempts to do so as they often just seem like the exact same thing they are attempting to get away from - but in the opposite direction. I try and avoid being simply reactionary. I also don’t really care if I do offend. It is not my job to test an audience first to make sure that I don’t upset anyone, I make whatever I feel I want to look at, and hope that maybe somebody else wants to see the same things I do. I am not trying to be disrespectful but there are a lot of unspoken rules in the art world that I just don’t think are relevant to making art. Perhaps following those rules will help you to get tenure but they won’t help to make interesting work.
- Clients obviously address you because they like what you’re doing... how does it work in terms of murals though? Is there a lot of discussion involved beforehand?
Every mural is different. Sometimes a preliminary sketch is asked for, and I think that is totally understandable... especially if you are working in someone’s home. Other murals are totally open. Someone invites me to come do something and I paint whatever I feel like painting. On only one occasion did I get to the location where I was handed a long list of things that were forbidden. The list included no nudity, no blood, no religious iconography, no cigarettes, etc, etc. I read the list and wondered why they asked me to come because so much of the imagery I use was forbidden.
- Naked women, comic and drug references, sports, and a lot of bodily fluids... would you agree that this isn’t necessarily expressing immaturity, but delivers an honest look on the psyche of men instead?
I can’t account for the psyches of all men - just my own. I paint what I like to look at or what I don’t understand or what I worry about. When I was a kid I drew football helmets and ghosts. I drew the helmets because I liked them and the ghosts because I was afraid of them... and by drawing them I diminished their power and wasn’t afraid to get out of my bed and go pee at night.
- Vintage playmates, Charlie Brown characters, old school baseball... would you consider yourself a rather nostalgic person... or is it simply about the joy of fucking around with (pop)cultural icons from the past?
I suppose there is probably an element of nostalgia in my work, but I hope that I can embrace things from my past without getting stuck on them. I use the things that have had the greatest impact on me, and that impact is greater when you are a child and just begin to see the world. Some of the first images that impacted me were cartoons, Catholic martyrs, and Playmates.
- What’s next after your solo show at Mixed Greens?
I have a few obligations for commissions and group shows... but I plan on spending a lot of my time this summer going to baseball games and pulling weeds.
Words : Forty